Bus drivers get all aboard to help raise charity cash

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BUS drivers are full of festive cheer as they get into the Christmas spirit in an attempt to pick up charity cash.

Throughout this month, eight drivers from the Stagecoach North East’s Sunderland depot will be dressing as Santa Claus and Scrooge, seeing who is on the good or naughty list and bringing festive cheer to passengers.

An additional 11 drivers will also be handing out gifts such as rock sweets, miniature reindeer and snowman bugs with a Christmas message, and raising much-needed funds for Dog AID and St Benedict’s Hospice, in Ryhope.

Drivers Michael Chapman and Ian Horner, as well as the rest of the team, are hoping to raise more than £2,000 and beat last year’s total.

Ian, 43, said: “We all really enjoy getting dressed up, as it’s for such a good cause and brings a bit of festive cheer to our day. Christmas can be a hectic time, so we just want to give people a smile or a laugh and raise some money for charity.”

Dog AID helps clients to train their own dogs to help with tasks, tailored to the individual and Lynn Stacey, 48, from Hetton, who fund-raises for the charity, has experienced the benefits that a specially trained assistance dog can bring.

Lynn suffers from a number of disabilities and her fully qualified assistance dog, Bella, helps with everyday tasks such as putting clothes in the washing machine, closing the curtains and making the bed.

Lynn said: “The amazing thing about Dog AID is that they work on the bond that you already have with your own dog so every dog is trained to match their owner and their specific needs, which can take around 18 months to two years to be fully qualified, so donations towards the costs are always appreciated.

“For me, the rewards of living with Bella are amazing and so that is why I am helping spread the message.

“I hope the public are able to give as much as they can to help others benefit from a friend like Bella and make a difference to their lives.”

Catrina Flynn, fund-raising manager for St Benedict’s Hospice, said: “The money raised will directly benefit patients and their families from all areas of Wearside so we do hope everyone travelling during December gives generously and supports the drivers in their fantastic support of two very worthy charities.”